Saturday 30 November 2013

Hire Cars & Velcro

It's almost time to start randomly and hurriedly throwing stuff into my battered old Marks & Spencers suitcase. Effect pedals, socks, paint-stained shirts, books I might want to read, CDs I'll be tired of listening to in whatever horror of a hire car I get this time.
The last hire car we got from Heathrow didn't even look like a car – it seemed unsuited to house either people or amplifiers and instruments but we took my mother to a gig we had in Chichester in it and she was perfectly happy nestled in the black, faux-leather back seat next to Amy's guitar, my amplifier and a couple of boxes of CDs.
There's never anywhere to prop the GPS up. They want you to pay extra to use some built in contraption. We use an outmoded GPS thing in the UK. I've tried wedging the remains of the suction cup into the dashboard heating vents – it once worked on a small van we hired from Europcar – but usually I end up balancing the thing between the gear stick and the little trough that you're supposed to fill with toffees and change for parking meters. And as you take a sharp corner it slides into the nether region between the passenger seat and the transmission.
On the last trip I had great success with Velcro. I bought a roll of sticky-backed Velcro from a Target store somewhere just south of Richmond, Virginia. I stuck a strip of the scratchy stuff on the car dashboard and the corresponding furry strip to my phone and like this I was able to attach the car to the back of the phone.
Amy and I both have the same phone but we can tell who's is who's now because mine has a furry strip on the back and a big white paint stain from talking on the phone while I was rollering a ceiling the other day.

I'm glad you all know that now. And in years to come you'll start to notice little strips of Velcro attached to hire car dashboards the world over. It's my life's work. At last I'm doing something useful.

Thursday 28 November 2013

The heady world of rock and pop (part 64)

I hardly have time to get over one trip before it's time to set off on another. Less than a month ago I was in Decatur, Georgia, setting up the first solo show of my paintings. I drove down there in a hire car stacked with the paintings plus a couple of guitars and an amplifier because I was going to do a gig while I was there.
I always feel as though I'm on the lam when I'm driving off somewhere in a hire car full of stuff that hire cars never seem to be designed to carry. This isn't real life I'm thinking, and a distant adult voice echoes in my head – when are you going to stop messing around and get a real job?
It's a bit late now. I'm six months off sixty – fifty nine and a half years old. I often wonder how I've managed to get away with it so far but I gave up on worrying about doing anything about it half a lifetime ago. The deluded part of me makes these ridiculous intercontinental cross country journeys because it thinks there's still time – and it's only a matter of time – it thinks I'm going to make it, become a big somebody in the heady world of rock and pop.
The rational, non-deluded part of me knows this isn't going to happen. I'm just trundling along, out-living a lot of badly abused vehicles that were never meant to be driven so fast so overloaded, and for such long distances. I used to hurtle along surrounded by full ashtrays, beer bottles, cassettes and photo-copied maps. Now it's apple cores, plastic water bottles, toothpicks, CDs and GPS.
Thank fuck for the GPS. Before President Reagan proved he wasn't a complete waste of space by giving this great gift to the world you could easily add another hour onto a journey time just looking for the hotel or the venue. It takes the mystery away of course, the are we ever going to get there? We'll probably get there at the time it says on the screen unless we stop at another Starbucks and slosh down another inch or so of the sour black liquid that passes for espresso in those places.
So I drove down to Atlanta, or Decatur or wherever, stayed in a hotel on the way somewhere south of Washington DC. As I was negotiating the beltway around DC in post-rush hour darkness Amy called. I know I shouldn't have spoken to her while I was driving but there wasn't much traffic and we hadn't spoken since I left that morning. She was very excited – it seemed that Lou Reed played Take The Cash on his final radio show and said I was magnificent. I hardly know how to process that information. Lou Reed inhabits / inhabited another world, far away from the grubby, hire car trashing, sink or swim and under the wire world that I operate in. Or did he?
Early in the summer we went to see his wife Laurie Anderson give a talk, present some films and, along with Pauline Oliveros, perform a live soundtrack for a couple of films that were actually fairly forgettable in comparison to the music. The equipment broke down – a computer malfunction. Pauline Oliveros played a couple of solo pieces on an accordian hooked up to God knows what electronic trickery while Laurie Anderson scrabbled around on the floor unplugging and plugging things back in. I felt a kinship. Lou had people to deal with that sort of thing, his wife didn't, and perhaps given the choice neither would Lou. In Laurie's obituary for Lou in Rolling Stone she talks about how their first date was at a recording equipment trade fair – they met in microphones.
I don't know why I'm telling you stuff that you can read elsewhere except to try and illustrate a point which you've probably lost track of by now. I know I have, so here's a link: 

I could tell you all about my exhibition in Decatur but I haven't even mentioned the trip I made to Memphis the month before. Here's an account I started to write back in October one glum evening in a town out on the Illinois mud:

I'm sitting here trying to recount the steps that have lead me to room 106 at the Super 8 motel in Staunton, Illinois.
I arrived here in the dark having made a ridiculous detour around St Louis. I should have listened to the GPS but we'd had a falling out early today - she took me on a tour of interstate highways surrounding Springfield, Missouri.
I just want a fucking cup of coffee I screamed at her. A sign I'd never seen before came up on the screen – you shook your phone it accused me. It wanted to report me to Google, mount a full enquiry. It was lucky I didn't throw it out of the window.
The GPS woman was adamant - ignore the signs for Chicago and carry straight on. I was having none of it. She kept repeating the same phrase over and over: take the next exit and make a U turn. You've already fucked-up once today I yelled at her as I ploughed on into the darkest depths of Bumfuk, Illinois.
Turned out she was right.
Tomorrow I'm going to be nice to her all day.
I played in Springfield, Missouri the night before. Twenty seven devout disciples and soon-to-be converts turned out to see me. Taking into account that Springfield is miles from anywhere, right in the heart of the very dead centre of mid-western America I think I can count that as a bit of a success.

Staunton, Illinois doesn't look like a very nice place to live. It's muddy, cold, dark and unwelcoming. There's a new plastic gas station that can probably be seen from outer space, and there's a Hardee's Red Burrito. Apart from the hotel reception these are the only two places in the entire town of Staunton, Illinois that are still open at nine thirty in the evening.

I try to imagine that the place will look better in daylight
It doesn't.
I stay in the room until the last pick-up truck has left the parking lot outside my window. I figure that an absence of people that travel in pick-up trucks will make the breakfast room more pallatable. It doesn't – breakfast finished with the last of the pick-up people.
I imagine there's got to be somewhere I can get coffee on the this highway, somewhere that is McDonalds, Burger King, Popeye's... A Starbucks perhaps, or even Panera. But there isn't one.
After almost an hour I resign myself to Cracker Barrel. It'll be an adventure I tell myself.
It isn't.
Everyone is really homespun and pleased to see me, and very fucking nice. Large and lumpy - shiny polyester stretched across enormous expanses of backside. Big chins, white, teeth, plastic hair. This is a the mid west just as I'd imagined it!
I drive on, my teeth uncomfortably clenched in the aftermath of the sour strychnine liquid that passed for coffee at the Cracker Barrel. Won't make that mistake again, next time I'll stop at the side of the road and drink water out of the ditch.

Two days ago I was in Memphis for the weekend. Six days ago I was in Knoxville, Tennessee. A number of hours before that I was in Richmond, Virginia. I played in a place called Gallery 5. They said it would be packed because a lot of people were disappointed to have missed the show when Amy and I played there last February. They didn't show up so I suppose they're still disappointed. I played to a warm and welcoming crowd of almost thirty people.
Afterwards I stayed with Amy's cousin Ceci. We hung out in her kitchen with a friend of hers who knew more about obscure British underground bands of the sixties than I do, and about two thirty Ceci wondered how far it was to Knoxville. Can't be more than two, three, possibly four hours I said. We all agreed that that sounded about right, but just to be on the safe side somebody looked it up on Mapquest.
Seven hours and forty seven minutes not including delays bought about by roadworks.
I knew I had to get up so of course I couldn't sleep, spent four and a half hours supended in a semi coma and fell into a deep sleep just as the alarm went off. Standard procedure really.
The car was running on empty so I got the nice GPS / Google Maps lady to direct me to a gas station. There's only one gas station in Richmond, a BP station on the other end of town. I set off in hot pursuit, turning left and turning right until I got embroiled in some roadworks that the GPS lady didn't know about.
It occurred to me that a town the size of Richmond must have more than one gas station. Ceci had actually directed me to one just round the corner from her house but I didn't quite take in the information because I knew that the GPS lady would set me right. The bitch set me wrong, the bitch being the GPS lady, not Ceci who is without a doubt my favourite distant in-law.
Eventually I found a Citgo gas station almost in sight of the BP one. It was an unpleasant experience in a desperate neighbourhood but I noticed as I passed the projected BP station that I'd save a couple of cents a gallon. So fuck you Google Maps and fuck you BP. And fuck you too GPS lady - you just put nearly an hour on the travel time.
We hit the interstate and drove on in a tense silence.

Sometime in the mid-afternoon after a less than delightful culinary experience in rural Virginia it occurred to me that I was going to be late for the soundcheck. In fact, unless I got a move on I was probably going to be too late for the show. I stopped in a Starbucks and loaded up on coffee. The girl behind the counter loved my accent – said I reminded her of Michael Caine. She asked me what I was doing in the middle of Virginia, asked me how I liked it. I knew she was into films - it's alright, but it's a bit squeak piggy squeak if you know what I mean. She did. She fair swooned, said I'd made her day. I half expected her to run out to the car, flinging off her Starbucks apron and screaming take me with you...
She didn't, but her and the coffee cheered me up no end.
I drove onward at the speed of light being careful to observe the speed limits and watching out for highway patrol cars.

I arrived in at the Pilot Light in Knoxville just as the opening act were about to go on. The opening act was Tim & Susan Lee or The Tim Lee 3 minus 1, or possibly just The Tim Lee 2. Tim helped me load my gear in before they went on. The Pilot Light was great and I wish I could play there every Thursday. No soundcheck but a soundcheck was hardly neccesary – I told the soundman what I wanted, strummed a couple of chords, talked into the mic, and before I knew it I was halfway through the set. And the place was full and the people actually wanted to hear what I was doing.
It was a change from the last time Amy and I were in Knoxville – we played in a beer hall for students not long after Michael Jackson died. Two girls were dancing in front of the stage as we set up. They were obviously high on ecstasy, flowers painted on their faces, swooshing long scarves around, embracing anything that moved, that kind of thing. Do y'all play any Michael Jackson? one of them asked me. I told her I was terribly sorry but y'all didn't play any Michael Jackson. They stuck around anyway, swooshing their scarves, flailing their arms and occasionally going Wooo! in a gamely half-hearted manner. They lasted two and a half songs before one of them wandered off and the other fell in love with a pillar. By that time we could hardly hear what we were playing over the noise that a lot of beer drinking students in a place with a high ceiling makes.
Different this time though. No swooshing scarves or flowers painted on faces. Just a very nice crowd of all ages.
And then I drove across Tennessee to Memphis. Took me two days. I stopped in a town called Cookeville. I needed gas, and maybe a cup of coffee. And then I thought I might as well stop for dinner. It was only five o'clock, a little early and there was very little choice but I was dreading the culinary roadside delights that might be lurking west of Nashville. So I stumbled into the Olive Garden and ordered the earlybird special.
The waitress kept calling me Buddy. She noticed that I was looking tired and suggested that if I wasn't in a hurry I should stick around. She probably thought I was on holiday, some silly English retiree living the dream, working out a deluxe Kerouac fantasy. She put the idea in my head and in no time at all, in between the salad and the main course I'd got my phone out and Hotwired my way into a three star hotel on the outskirts of town.
They gave me a ground floor room with the usual fixings, double bed, reclining chair, fridge, microwave, coffee machine, flat screen TV, a huge air conditioning unit under the window... and next to the bed where you'd normally have a night table with a telephone and radio alarm clock, a big dehumidifier that was turned up full. I was somewhat disturbed by this so I called the front desk and asked for an explanation.
Because of their proximity to the swimming pool, the rooms on that side of the hotel tend to get a little er... moist.
The noise it made was deafening so I turned it off and hoped the room wouldn't get too swampy.
And the next day I drove to Memphis and played at Gonerfest. It was an almost eerie experience. The audience was in rapt attention. During the quiet bits I could hear aeroplanes flying overhead and the sound of distant traffic.
After a weekend in Memphis I drove through Arkansas to Missouri and Springfield. And you know the rest.

Amy and I are playing in Montclair, New Jersey on Saturday then I'm on my own - flying to London for a one-off reunion of The Len Bright Combo. And a few solo dates. I'll be gone for three weeks. I don't think Amy and I have ever been apart for that long since we shacked up together. I hope she doesn't enjoy life without me too much!

30 MONTCLAIR NJ The Art Garage 7:30 PM TICKETS (Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby)

05 THE LEN BRIGHT COMBO live session on The Marc Riley Show, 6 Music
06 THE LEN BRIGHT COMBO live at The Lexington, LONDON

08 WORCESTER, Marr’s Bar
12 GLASGOW, Woodend Bowling & Lawn Tennis Club tickets
13 EDINBURGH, The Citrus Club, 40-42 Grindlay Street
14 GATESHEAD, The Central
15 LEICESTER, The Musician
16 BRIGHTON, The Prince Albert

Monday 5 August 2013

Summer rolls on

We went to the place where Catskill Creek joins the river Hudson. There's a park with a bandstand on the river bank with a hamburger concession and picnic tables. Every Thursday during the summer they have a concert. This week it was a faux Beatle group. As we arrived they were knocking out You Can't Do That and it actually sounded quite good except that the instrumental section went by without an audible guitar solo, lots of You Can't Do Thats but no solo. 

Thank you George and now Mister Paul McCartney all the way from Liverpool England...

There was too much chat between songs while guitars were changed extra something for our most avid fans, we like to do them exactly as we recorded them back in the day... Are there any Rubber Soul fans here tonight? This ones a request for a lovely lady – I think her name was Rita but it might be Martha my dear or Lucy in the sky, something like that, hey up!...'
OK, are you ready mates?
Thank you Paul
Thank you John
Thank you one and all. The Beatles from the Yellow Submarine film, all sacherine and no acidity.

You Can't Do That was a high point. We left during the Hey Jude singalong. A two man Mexican wave broke out – actually it was two woman having a really great time. A large beery man slumped in a Walmart garden chair shouted boozilly along. The whole family were there – it was a family occasion. The wife, her sister and a cousin or two all piled up in Walmart garden chairs. The chairs still had their tags on, the garden chair aisle must be empty tonight but they'll all be back tomorrow with grass stained feet and sagging seats.

I dread to think what next weeks attraction might be. Last week it was The Ponytails and that was a washout apparently because the PA was under-powered and then it broke down and the concert had to be abandoned because The Ponytails do the sixties to a backing track and you couldn't hear either it or them.

Not that we could anyway because we were rocking out in Wilmington, Delaware with Ian Hunter. The Queen is a large refurbished movie theatre with two venues – a small one upstairs where NRBQ were playing and a bowels to rooftop rock auditorium with every mdern rock convenience and a lot of dining tables. And that's where we were. It put me in mind of a land-locked liner, especially when the audience came in – we could have been on a Saga cruise
And please don't think I mean any disrespect to either our audience or Ian's, it's just a sharp reminder that we're all getting older. A few years ago when my daughter, Luci, was working as a care assistant in a home for the elderly she called me one day with the news: Dad! We've got our first senile hippie!

Anyway, apart from the weirdness of being in a place where you basically get a better seat if you eat dinner – I've never got on with that idea, I'm the man who told the audience at Joe's Pub in New York City that it would have been better if they'd eaten before they came out – the show was pretty fabulous. We got a standing ovation which sort of surprised me because I thought we were playing quite well but I wasn't sure if we were connecting. Ian and his band were really great – pretty fabulous...really great – I should be writing for Record Mirror in the early seventies: the bass guitarist and drummer laid down a mighty beat, the two lead guitarists knocked 'em dead and the singer had a terrific image. I see no reason why they shouldn't make number one by Christmas!

Ian asked us to come on and sing the backing vocals on All The Young Dudes – that was if we didn't mind hanging around until the end. He's the nicest person. I'm in awe of him (hope he doesn't read this) but he's just so nice to us. I couldn't help thinking back to summer 1972 when that record first came out – it was relevant in a line with My Generation and Friday On My Mind, it spoke to me then and I still think of it as one of the most important pop singles of all time. I never would have imagined that one day I'd be standing on a stage with Ian Hunter, singing the chorus with the wife! I hoped I sounded a bit like David Bowie but I don't know because the monitor was turned off so we couldn't hear any of what we were singing. There's always something.

Maxwell's the week before was one of the highlights of the year. I'm glad we got a chance to play there one last time before it closes down. It doesn't do to get too sentimental about these places – they have their day and when it's over it's ridiculous to pretend it isn't. I never subscribed to keep CBGBs open at all cost, it was a dump, it served its purpose, it was falling to bits. And punk is long dead. Likewise The Marquee Club, The Nashville Rooms, The Hope & Anchor and Dingwalls Dancehall. I miss them all but I'm glad they aren't around any longer. Though in fact the Hope & Anchor still is and it's a travesty – it bears no relation or resemblance to the place it was when it was somewhere everybody used to play. Admittedly it's a lot cleaner and you probably won't get rotgut from drinking the draught beer or wade through piss to get to the toilet, but what's the point? It hasn't even got the jukebox – it was widely acknowledged as the best jukebox in London, and I'm proud to say it had several of my forty-fives on it at one time or another.

So what is the point here? Yes, I know – I'm going to miss Maxwell's but the scene is changing along with the neighbourhood. It's how it has to be. I miss the Lakeside Lounge too but that neighbourhood might as well be a different planet now. 

But life carries on - somewhere else.

And now I find that Mick Farren has died. I first met him back in the seventies when he had an EP out on Stiff Records called Screwed Up – it was actually Mick Farren & The Deviants. My copy has long gone which makes me sad because I loved that record – Outrageous Contageous, Let's Loot The Supermarket, Screwed Up – I'm addicted to myself...
He was a lovely, funny man.

While I was making my first album Stiff Records decided I needed a fan club and charged me and Larry Wallis with thinking up a name for it – they probably thought it'd keep us out of trouble for a while. I came up with The Girls In The Nude Club, Larry changed it to Fun Club and Mick Farren came up with the killer strap line – Remember, there's one under every dress. The Stiff drones, Paul Conroy and Alan Cowderoy were appalled, this wasn't what they'd had in mind for the shiny new all-wholesome Stiff Records Mk 2. Mick made sure it got used by writing about it in the NME. The record company office was inundated with requests to join, sadly all from boys, which wasn't quite what we'd had in mind.

I loved all that lot – The Pink Fairies, The Deviants, The Pretty Things, Hawkwind... the Notting Hill Gate scene I suppose it was. They were kind and understanding, they got it, Stiff Records, the early punk thing. If it flew in the face of what was considered to be normal, decent and acceptable they were all for it.

The way it's going puts me in mind of the coastal erosion at Happisburg in Norfolk. I considered buying a house there about ten years ago. Last time I went there the street the house had been on wasn't there anymore – it had all fallen off the cliff onto the beach which is now larger than it used to be and strewn with construction debris to which vestiges of patterned wallpapers still cling. JJ Cale died the same day as Mick Farren – you look away for a couple of seconds and there's another one gone. Trevor Bolder died in May without me noticing – I found out about that last week. Still, there's no sense in getting depressed, it's all part of life's great adventure and we really don't have any choice (in spite of what some might say).

Sunday 7 July 2013

Dead End Fallen Rock Zone Bump

It was May and we were in Fargo, on our way to Winnipeg. Now it's July and I'm here at home on a Sunday morning waiting for Amy to get ready to go to Hudson to get a decent espresso.
I don't know where the time goes (does anybody?) - there we were motoring all over the mid-west, from Winnipeg where we played to sold out shows at the Stu-Dome, one of the wackiest homemade venues, to the pointlessness of Omaha. We played to an audience of two people in Omaha. Two people, the bar staff, the club manager and the opening act, two young twits who twittered, twattered and nattered as we struggle through a short set. We played for the two paying customers, otherwise I would have played to shame the manager.
The doorman told me that the club had had a falling out with the local press. Something was wrong - the place had a sound system that must have cost more than a building, and immediately after we finish playing two men in suits came in and cornered the manager. They didn't look like they'd come for drinks and a good time.
I don't think we'll be going back to Omaha in a hurry.
We came home via St Louis and a show with The Bo-Keys, Willie Mitchell's house band. It was my birthday. The bass player, Scott Bomar, said he'd seen us at the Hi Tone in Memphis. After our set he complimented me on my bass playing. I went into our shared dressing room and their singer, Percy Wiggins said immediately 'Man! You guys have got a great blend!'
Best birthday presents ever apart from Amy's tickets to see Kris Kristofferson at the Tarrytown Music Hall. Kris was a bit challenged vocally - too many gigs in a row - but magnificent nonetheless. He did two sets, started up with Feeling Mortal from his new album.

He dusted off Me & Bobby McGhee quite casually round about the third song in. Help Me Make It Through The Night and Sunday Morning Coming Down came and went with no fanfare. When he found he'd put the wrong harmonica in the rack he laughed as he tunelessly tooted and sang what might have been a harmonica solo. His daughter, who could have been anywhere between fifteen and thirty-five, sang and played the banjo on a few tunes and apart from that it was just him with an acoustic guitar and a seemingly random selection of harmonicas. Perfect.

My mother flew in from London for a visit. Her flight was scheduled to arrive in Newark, New Jersey, at 3:35pm on Tuesday. It was a simple operation – breeze down to Newark, wave excitedly at the arrivals gate, pop her and her suitcase in the car, drive home up the New York State Thruway, dinner, bed.

It didn't go according to plan.

The morning was glorious – brilliant blue sky and perfect temperature. We were still a bit tired from a marathon Sunday trip – leave home at nine in the morning, drive down to Baltimore, set up, soundcheck, play a set at five in the afternoon, pack up, drive, arrive home at three in the morning... I think we might have been slightly mad at this point.
We hauled ourselves back into the car the next day - slightly later the same day that is - to collect her from the airport. Torrential rain came down in sheets as soon as we hit the New York State Thruway. It was still coming down when we got to the airport.
I rushed into the terminal while Amy parked the car. The flight had arrived almost an hour ago. I looked all around but my mother was nowhere to be seen. So I went to the information desk, explained myself and listened fom a weird distance while an official told me that my mother hadn't been feeling well so when the flight landed they had her decanted into an ambulance and taken to a hospital.
I wanted to know how unwell but the official had no details though he did volunteer that he'd been there at the gate when the flight landed and he hadn't seen anything that in his opinion looked too dreadful.
I got the hospital details and off we went.
They were very nice to me at the hospital - horrible to just about everybody else as far as I could see, but nice to me. Amazing what an English accent can do for you. In no time at all I was through to the inner sanctum of the emergency department. The place was littered with large people reclining on reinforced trolleys in various states of distress and undress.
My mother looked tiny on her trolley, parked next to a wall, forlorn, dejected, ashen and frightened under a pale blue hospital blanket. She'd been sick on the flight. The night before, what with the excitement of getting ready, she couldn't remember how to set her alarm, so at two o'clock in the morning, fearful of missing the flight, she'd decided there was nothing else for it but to stay up all night. She was worn out, dehydrated, and she hadn't eaten properly. The airline food disagreed with her.
She was shaky so the nice doctor, who addressed all his questions to me in the assumption that my mother was at the very least slightly senile, was ready to diagnose the early onset of Parkinsons. They wheeled her into a private room and, having relieved me of a credit card down-payment of six hundred dollars, proceeded to give her every test imaginable. Healthcare practitioners swarmed around her like mechanics at a Grand Prix pitstop.
They hooked her up to a drip, drained vials of blood from her, stuck electrodes all over her and measured her heartbeat, blood pressure, bio-rhythms body mass index, height to weight ratio, bone density... They booked her in for an X-ray and started talking about giving her a brain scan - an MRI.
'I don't want a KGB,' I heard my mother say in a weak voice.
The X-ray guy came along and addressed all his questions to me - 
'Can she walk?'
'I don't know, why don't we ask her.'
And so on.
He put her in a chair, wheeled her to a dark and eerie corner of the hospital. He propped her up against a metal slab in a grubby room. He took her stick away so that she had nothing to hold on to. He made me go in the other room with him where we could see her through a thick glass screen, clinging to the metal slab, looking desperate.
He had to do the x-rays, front, side and back, twice, because she'd been wearing a Saint Christopher medalion and he hadn't noticed.
Saint Christopher: patron saint of travellers.
They wanted to keep her in overnight - twenty four hour observation. I asked if she could have a glass of water, explained that she had jet-lag which usually results from, or results in, dehydration. The doctor had to think about this for a minute, jet-lag not being a serious medical condition. He agreed that she could drink some water and a kind nurse came and gave her water in a paper cup which she took with extreme gratitude.
Another nurse who looked remakably like Godzilla burst in and took it away from her.
'She can't drink anything! Who gave here that?'
I had a talk with my mother - she was tired of being treated like a half-wit or a geriatric and wanted out of there. I called the doctor back in. He was adament that she needed twenty four hours observation. I said she needed a good nights sleep which she wouldn't get in a hospital in Newark, New Jersey, and we agreed to differ.
Godzilla came back with some paperwork and having got the neccessary signatures told us to leave as soon as possible.
The place was a hell-hole. A man ranted, raved and strutted the corridor in his underwear - 'give me back my fucking clothes!'
A man, a woman, a banshee - I don't know - kept yelling 'let me the fuck oudda here'
Beached whales were wheeled back and forth on the reinforced trolleys and a woman in the next room took quite a shine to me. She listed the contents of her handbag:
'I never leave home without my insulin, my cigarettes and a bottle of diet pepsi...'
She was in for a suspected heart attack.

Amy had been all over the airport in the meantime, trying to retrieve her mother-in-law's luggage. Somewhat surprisingly United Airlines were extremely helpful, but it became apparent that the luggage wasn't going to be with us until the following day. So Amy bought her a change of clothes and everything she'd need for the night and she left the hospital looking like a Newark delinquent courtesy of the local Target.
We stopped at Burger King on the way home - it was the only place open. My mother wolfed down a portion of fries and declared it the best thing she'd ever eaten. She had the best nights sleep she'd had in weeks and was on top form for the whole time she was with us. We made sure she had an early night before she left to go home and took her for lunch at a good restaurant on the way to the airport. She thoroughly enjoyed the return flight and when we spoke on the phone the following day she sounded like a teenager.

By mid June we were more worn out than we were on the drive from Winnipeg to Omaha and I wondered if it would ever stop raining. I recorded a version of Little Child from With The Beatles for a Mojo magazine CD, We're With The Beatles.

For some strange reason - nothing strange about it actually, they fucked-up - it was credited to Wreckless Eric & James Nicholls. James runs the London office of Fire Records. I'm signed to Fire now, or at least my back-catalogue is - they're going to start re-issuing very shortly.
James and I have no plans to form a group together. In fact he left the group in a fit of artistic temperament shortly after the magazine came out. I sent him a very nice email suggesting he reconsider:
even though you're not technically on the recording you've always been the spirit, even the soul of the band, whereas I'm merely the engine room and mouthpiece. And by the way, you still owe your half of last months rehearsal room rent.
He slunk away muttering something about Wham. I haven't heard from him since.

I built some book shelves so we could unpack our books. Amy keeps showing photos of the shelves - like a proud mother. A bit embarrassing for me. The other night at Maxwell's she showed the photo to Ian Hunter's wife:
'Wow!' she said, 'I wish Ian could do that sort of thing.'
It's been quite a month for heroes - the other night we went with David Greenberger to see Ian McLagan at The Bearsville Theatre in Woodstock. He was fabulous, just him on the piano and his bass player, Jon Notarthomas. I didn't know what to expect and it was a pleasant surprise. I talked to Jon Notarthomas afterwards - he was pleased that Amy and I had come , then Ian came over and hugged us and he was glad we were there too and we were mates almost immediately and called each other old cunts in the way that only English blokes can. I was in a stupor for days after - I've been a Small Faces fan since the very beginning, and a Faces fan after that. I'd just met one of my oldest heroes.
And then we played with Ian Hunter. It was one of the last nights at Maxwell's so it was quite emotional. We did a stripped-down thing, Amy played acoustic guitar and I played my Guild Starfire through a fifteen watt Fender Princeton with no effect pedals. It was very rock 'n' roll. We did a different set - The Downside Of Being A Fuck-up, Please Be Nice To Her, Young Upwardly Mobile & Stupid, Summer Of My Wasted Youth, Another Drive-in Saturday, Genovese Bag, All I Want, A Darker Shade Of Brown, Do You Remember That and Whole Wide World. It went over well. I switched to bass for Do You Remember That. A great, wacky guy called Unsteady Freddie filmed it. I usually hate films of us live but I think this one's pretty good:

In between lounging around with the stars, hanging about in hospitals and building bookcases I've been painting again. I've got a new website dedicated to paintings. There are loads for sale but you don't have to buy anything. I've been doing paintings of detergent packets - they make the site look like a supermarket and I'm not sure that anyone likes them. Take time to fill out the pointless survey while you're there - the address is:
It took me ages to think that up.

Monday 13 May 2013


We stopped for the night in Fargo on our way to Winnipeg. Apparently you can have your photo taken with the actual wood chipper used in the film Fargo - it's just down the road and you can buy one of those silly looking hats with ear flaps to wear while you're being photographed. Or maybe you can rent one for the occasion, I don't know, but I don't think we'll be needing the hats because it's very hot outside even though there's a howling gale blowing, which is disturbing but perfect - when it comes to round here neither of us has driven north of Minneapolis before. We're a long way from anywhere we might consider normal and the weather is adding to the otherness of it all.
Before we head off up the trail towards the Canadien border we're going to venture into downtown Fargo. Amy has already been out - she discovered a Target and a Starbucks. It's disappointing to come all this way and they've got exactly the same everything as you might find in Watford or Washington DC. I was hoping to trade a couple of blankets for a Bowie knife and the various supplies we'll need as we head out further into the wilderness. The wind is still howling around the Travel Lodge & Suites here and I'm doing my best to be faintly terrified.
We had a great show at Schuba's in Chicago the other night. The situation was possibly more weird than anything Fargo and its environs can throw at us because we were sharing a dressing room with the two young acts who were doing the late show, and both of them were accompanied by a full compliment of parents. The one group, Skating Polly, who are all set to become the greatest thing to come out of Oklahoma City consist of two half sisters, one seventeen, the other only thirteen. They had a young balding guy with them who fussed around their equipment and repeatedly told us how awesome we were. I thought he was the drummer but he turned out to be the dad and tour manager. The other act was Emily Wells - she tours solo with half a drum kit, a violin, a lot of electronics and a very sweet boxer/mongrel dog for company. Tonight she had her parents with her.They were helping with her merchandise. They appeared to be a lot were younger than either of us. Amy's daughter Hazel came to see us and she said she felt old. The dressing room was cluttered with thirteen year old's homework and the youngsters tirelessly twittered right up until showtime - only a few tickets left for our show tonite at Schuba's with Emily Wells - it's going to be awesome. Let's make it a sell-out! Something like that anyway. I felt like a sleazy old git by comparison and I'm sure I said the F word in front of the thirteen year old.
Jake Burns from Stiff Little Fingers came to see us play. He raved about us on Facebook afterwards -
Just home from the most entertaining evening I've had in...forever. If you get the chance to catch Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby on this current short tour, don't think twice. Go! I thought Ray Davies, Neil Young, The Beatles (in a good way). Best night out in years. I was thrilled to bits.

On Saturday night we played in an old factory building in Manitowoc (that's us in the photo above). I still can't pronounce Manitowoc with any confidence. We had a great time with the promoter, David Smith, and his family. He introduced me to the work of Phillip R Goodwin. I'd seen his illustrations before but without knowing who he was.
I hope we see some bears on this trip...

Thursday 9 May 2013

Blood on the bar room floor. Well, almost...

We shared the night at The Lovin' Cup in Rochester last night with a beer tasting shindig and it wasn't a good co-bill. It was obvious that the Lovin' Cup management's first priority was to keep a crowd of  ignorant, beer-swilling morons in the place for as long as possible in order to maximise beer sales, at the expense of our concert. After the beer tasting they should have turned the house but they didn't. The woman who was hosting the boring and thoroughly pointless event suggested over a microphone that the beer tasters might like to stick around to check out the music and if they liked it they could make a donation if they felt so inclined.

Wow! Thanks a lot!

It's like saying - if you haven't got a ticket that's OK, just stick around, drink up and fuck up the concert for the people who have bought tickets with your incessant and moronic chatter. One ticket holder who remonstrated with a gaggle of  loud beer people got on the wrong side of the manager and was actually thrown out. We saw the commotion from the stage and assumed it was the people who were disrupting our show who were being made to leave. If I'd known what was really happening I would have been inclined to stop the show which wouldn't have been fair on the ticket holders, but they were already getting a raw deal. At times it was almost impossible to play, what with the noise and the fact that we hadn't had a soundcheck due to the beer event.and the late arrival of the soundman.

I don't ever want to play at The Lovin' Cup in Rochester again though I don't somehow think we'll be asked - they didn't like me telling their patrons to either shut the fuck up or fuck off. The manager sort of made that clear in a passive aggressive, jokey kind of way when he told us to pack up our equipment and get out.

I hope Rochester isn't an indication of how this tour is going to go. We've already had a minor catastrophe - as we were checking in to a hotel in Toledo, Ohio, this evening on our way to Chicago, Amy's electric guitar fell off a luggage cart and the head broke off. It's the second time it's happened. We're retiring the guitar and buying a cheap Danelectro. We're sort of wishing we could retire ourselves at this point but perhaps tomorrow night's show at Schuba's in Chicago will convince us otherwise. I hope so.

The people who had actually come to hear us play last night were wonderful - they stuck with us til the end and gave us a standing ovation which I think we deserved if only for not abandoning the show. Highlights for me included bouncing a marker pen off the soundman's head to get his attention, Amy's fabulously manic piano playing in the middle of Teflon Wok, and sweetly smiling at a table of office girls (who had already taken offence) as I said 'It's alright, I don't like you either'. I think I called someone a cunt too but I can't be sure. It does you good to misbehave once in a while.

I'll try to stay within the bounds of niceness at Schuba's but I'm not promising anything.

Wednesday 6 February 2013

A Video, Some Travel Tips And Grandad's Homemade Aeroplane

As I'm going to tell you a bit further down we've made a video for Do you Remember That.
First I have to waffle on a bit about other stuff that has nothing to do with that, probably so that in my own mad mind I won't appear to be giving it the hard sell, which of course I am. You have two choice - or possibly three: you can click on the video, get it over with and either fuck off or carry on reading, in which case you'll have another chance to see the video further down the page; or you can read the other stuff and then watch the video; or the third choice is... I don't actually know what the third choice is.
I play the part of Barry....

I don't know where or how I used to find the time to constantly update my website and write lengthy reports of tours and trips out and one-off gigs and so on. These days the writing just stacks up in my head rather than in cyberspace or wherever this stuff exists when you click the 'publish' button. My intentions are good but my life is overwrought with busy-ness, and in the few moments I have to contemplate and possibly write an update of some sort I feel like a rabbit caught in the headlights of some monsterous oncoming vehicle which is probably the task at hand. If you can follow all that.
I want to tell you about Wyoming, and in particular the Days Inn hotel in a town called Evanston where I discovered a large and very dubious looking stain on the top sheet at two o'clock in the morning. The stain was right next to my face. We had to be up at some early hour to carry on driving across America. Complaining to the management and having the sheet changed would have cut into valuable sleeping time, and besides, the only person we could have complained to was a grubby and somewhat psychotic looking night porter who didn't really look like the kind of person that would be bothered by a stain on a poly-cotton sheet. Even one created as the result of an enema or other bowel related incident, or an accidental spillage during a birthing ritual. Not that I want to make any sweeping judgements – not about the stain - I mean about the psychotic night porter.
And besides, a successful complaint would have resulted in the changing of the sheet which may well have resulted in our seeing the naked mattress which is something you never want to see, not a naked hotel mattress. I should run a course on surviving hotels and other on tour accommodation.
The first rule, as stated above, is that you never want to see the bare mattress. Sometimes there's a plastic undersheet – and this is totally unacceptable. You'll want to remove it for two reasons: one reason being that the aftermath of an event neccessitating a plastic sheet to protect the mattress will probably have been sponge off by a hurried chambermaid or more likely allowed to air dry. The othere reason is that you'll sweat like a pig and have nightmares about being pre-packaged supermarket food. If indeed you can fall asleep for the rustling of crumpling plastic as you toss and turn trying to get comfortable with your head precariously balanced on a small lumpy hotel pillow (more about hotel pillows in a minute).
You'll need to remove the plastic sheet without ever catching sight of the bare mattress. This is how you do it: gently remove the corner of the fitted lower sheet from thecorner of the mattress, then remove the corner of the plastic sheet and push it under the sheet where you can't see it and pull the corner of the fitted bed sheet back over the corner. Repeat this exercise on two other corners. On the fourth corner which should be the one nearest to the wardrobe, the door of which should be open, remove the corner of the fitted sheet, liberate the corner of the plastic sheet and pull violently until the whole nasty plastic expanse, which you'll notice is a rancid creamy yellow colour, is out and away from the bed. Now stuff it in the wardrobe and shut the door. Put the fourth corner of the lower sheet back over the mattress and try not to think about it anymore. Wash your hands. If you happen to have a pair of surgical gloves you should of course have been wearing them during this procedure.
If you can feel the bed springs don't on any account remove the plastic undersheet. The hotel proprietor will have put the plastic undersheet on not to save the mattress from bodily fluids, but rather to try and keep a quite possibly disgusting and literally shagged-out mattress intact for another five years or so. In a case such as this your only option is to sleep on top of the fully made up bed in all your clothes or leave and sleep in the car.
Hotel pillows – you don't ever want to see a naked hotel pillow. They put pillow cases on them for a very good reason. People you don't know breathe into them and drool all over them and use them to raise the lady's bottom slightly to facilitate deeper penetration during casual acts of hotel intercourse. You should arrange the pillows so that the sides open outwards because you never want to wake up looking directly into the bowels of a hotel pillow. Hotel pillows are often stuffed with surgical waste. Just perch your head on the thing as best you can and try not to think about it.

I don't know why I've just told you all that but I'm sort of glad I have and I hope it's of some use. As I said before, my real reason for writing this blog post thing is to try and interest you in our fabulous new video for Do You Remember That. I was hoping to get a starring role as someone sexy and debonnaire. Instead I saddled myself with playing the part of Barry who signs the event for the hearing impaired. I'm not at all like Barry in real life. Barry is the sort of person who may have stayed in your hotel room before you did.
Amy plays the part of a slightly older but still aspiring singer-songwriter getting her first big break on a regional TV show. Our friend Jeff Economy helped us to make the video. It's a low-budget affair  and we decided to put a tag on the front of it to really set up the story - just like in those early MTV videos from the early eighties. We really hope you like it. Here it is - please feel free to share it with all your friends and let's hope it turns into a virus....

I don't know why I'm telling you all this stuff about hotel mattresses and pillows. There are so many wonderful things I could be writing about if only I could think of any of them. Grandfathering for instance – real life was suspended for a couple of weeks – or perhaps I should say everything but real life was suspended while my daughter Luci and grand daughter Tiger Mae came for a visit. The house was filled with laughter and chaos and we couldn't get much done but it didn't matter. I've become quite an expert on animated films for children and I've lost count of how many times I've seen Shrek and Toy Story, and danced insanely to Tiger's favourite 45, Steel Guitar Rag by The Dynatones. If you want to dance insanely to it yourself you'll have the opportunity very shortly when I re-launch The Wreckless Eric Radio Show. I've been trying to get a show together for some time but my efforts were always interrupted by a toothily grinning little girl asking 'What are you doing?' followed by more insane dancing, frivolity and stories about a skunk called Mike.

We're playing on Long Island on Sunday and the following week, February 16th, we're putting on another Homemade Aeroplane show at our house in Catskill NY. As with the other ones we've got a surprise special guest – I'm very excited about the guest but of course I can't say who it is or it won't be a surprise. At the last one we had Brian Dewan who accompanied himself on an electric autoharp propped up on an old persons walking frame and backed by Amy on piano and organ and me on the bass guitar. I think it's the first time I've ever played with someone who wore a tweed sports jacket. Brian is a wonderful and disquieting performer who somehow puts me in mind of a curmudgeonly Airedale. He's like a children's entertainer that you wouldn't let anywhere near the kids. Typically I don't appear to have a single photo of the event.

For the next aeroplane show we're going to do The Mod Housewife meets The Donovan Of Trash. We have an idea that the songs from these two albums might intersect in a good way – we're going to learn how to play as many of them as we can and see how they fit together on the night.... Tickets are $20 each and we ask you to bring something to share - a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread, a pot of soup, a pie, a dessert, an crate of oranges, a bar of chocolate... anything really - it's just a matter of people getting together and enjoying each other's company. And apart from that you get to hear us play live in our own house, sounding exactly as we want to sound, performing through the famed Empress Of Catskill Public Address System.
Here's a ticket link in case I've inadvertently sold the idea to anyone: 

And now perhaps I can get back to doing a few more paintings. See you soon.